When I was a wee lad one of the boys asked our Scoutmaster what the definition of summer was. He replied that it was that time of year when you could leave your house wearing only a t-shirt and not have to worry about carrying a sweater or jacket even if you were going to be out all night.
And that's always stuck with me. The true test of the summer is not the long, sunny days - you can have them almost any time of year except in the depths of winter - but the warm, almost tropical nights where you can walk around or ride your bike at 3 in the morning and never even think about putting on something warmer than the t-shirt and shorts you were wearing when you went out that afternoon.
And that's how it was last night for what was literally, i.e., chronologically, the last night of summer. I rode my bike over to McCarren Park to meet an old friend; we walked around for a couple hours, and then I retrieved my bike and got back home around midnight, never once wishing I'd worn anything warmer. Today, the first day of fall, was quite a different affair. The morning dawned sunny but much cooler, and by midday sullen clouds were scudding across and eventually overwhelming the sky.
I went out to the park to do some t'ai chi and some running - a new personal best of three miles, I note - and the weather made it easier yet more melancholy. My supposedly random iPod got in the spirit of things by serving up a topheavy diet of Joy Division and the bleaker, more wintry end of the Weakerthans catalog. In the evening I went off to the city carrying an umbrella but no jacket, my only concession to the change of season being a long rather than short-sleeved shirt, but I'd gotten it backwards. The clouds vanished and with them the remains of the day's warmth; by 9 or 10 o'clock the streets were no longer made for sweaterless walking and I reluctantly headed back to Brooklyn where, for the first time since June, I'll sleep with the windows shut.